Alumna Supports MDJ Students Through Professional and Career Development
More than 40 years after her college graduation, alumna Delores Jones, ’76, has never wavered in her support of Kent State School of Media and Journalism students.
As a student, she was a journalism major with a concentration in public relations and became very involved in the public relations curriculum, serving as vice president of Kent State’s Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).
Jones maintained her status as a Public Relations Society of America member after graduating and became the first person of color to be president of the Akron Chapter in 1988. She’s remained connected to Kent State mostly through PRSSA and the capstone public relations course, Public Relations Campaigns. In this course, students work in teams with a real client (often a national business headquartered in Northeast Ohio or a regional organization) throughout the entire semester, researching, planning and presenting a campaign and casebook in response to a communications challenge. At the end of the semester, their work is judged by professionals.
That class wasn’t offered when Jones was a student, but when she was contacted by Media and Journalism Professor Michele Ewing to get involved, she immediately saw value and has been coming back to serve as a judge for almost 18 years.
“I’m fully supportive of that capstone class and what students learn there, what they do there, and I challenge them there and get them to think,” Jones said. “We as PR professionals, we’re strategists, and my goal was always to try to help the students think about the strategies behind the tools that we use in our profession.”
Ewing, who teaches the capstone class, connected to Jones about 20 years ago, when she was first identifying professionals in the field to help with the class. Jones was working in corporate communications and community involvement at FirstEnergy Corp., where she spent 38 years of her career. The two have collaborated together ever since.
“She became somewhat of a legend in the Public Relations Campaigns class,” Ewing said. “She was known to ask very strategic, somewhat hard-hitting questions at the end of the presentation.”
Jones retired from FirstEnergy as Manager of Community Involvement in 2018. One year, Jones let the students use FirstEnergy as their client for the class, with her judging and moderating it.
“(The students} had some really great ideas, some that we implemented, and they were interviewing and talking with our employees over in New Jersey,” Jones said. “I think that was a really good experience for the capstone class that year.”
Jones’s support often extended beyond the capstone class by selecting students to mentor or offer internships to at FirstEnergy.
“Particularly our students of color, she wanted to help (them) find their path in public relations and maybe share her experiences so they could find a career path that they would enjoy and succeed in,” Ewing said.
Over the years, Jones has also donated gifts to the PRSSA Kent silent auction, a fundraiser that helps students attend national conferences. Jones’ energy is something Ewing said is always noticeable, and her presence is felt when she enters a room.
“She had a high bar set for the students,” Ewing said. “She expected them to do the work and I think that the students recognized that this was a person that was there to help them even though she could be tough … She was there to help them succeed, maybe to deliver a higher quality of work than they expected.”